Project 364 - EdWeb service to replace Plone for school and student services

Overview

This project was concerned with providing a Drupal replacement for the student and school services web pages that were hosted on our old Plone based WCMS. With the intention to have the new site up and running by August of the 2015/2016 session.

The project was officially proposed in August 2015 and retrospectively approved in April 2016. However knowing this was likely, and that the first versions of the central EdWeb distribution were becoming available, I'd actually started experimenting with a local EdWeb since January 2015. So we were able to meet the target of a basic site for August 2015, at which point web.inf.ed.ac.uk went live.

Since then there have been various updates to the EdWeb distribution, which were then rolled out to our install. As the functionality of the EdWeb improved, the web admin were able to migrate more of the old Plone based content to the web.inf.ed.ac.uk equivalent. By the end of 2016, the service was pretty much as it is now, with EdWeb updates applied when they come available.

The last couple of years have been the usual procrastination of finishing procedures and documentation.

What was achieved

I initially attended most of the IS meetings regarding EdWeb, went to workshops etc. Familiarised myself with Drupal and EdWeb. The initial minimum viable product release of the EdWeb distribution (referred to as just "distro" for the remainder of this document), was lacking a couple of features desired by us, and made some presumptions about the site.

By attending the meetings, and getting to know the developers and other Drupal people in the University, I wrote a couple of patches to the distro to fix our requirements.

  • Option to hide the larger banner image that appeared on every page
  • Use Drupal's built in search feature, rather than the default to search all of ed.ac.uk.

These patches required to be be kept up-to-date with the latest version of the distro, and applied when ever we updated our copy of the distro. This was less than ideal. However, I shared these patches with the local community, and eventually equivalent functionality was included in the distro, which now means we are using a vanilla copy of the distro for web.inf.ed.ac.uk.

However, we do have one replacement module and a couple of extra features modules to set some configuration that is otherwise lost during EdWeb updates.

  • uoe_cosign - alternative to uoe_ease
  • infweb_editor_config - features module to create infweb editor profile
  • infweb_editor_role - features module infweb editor role

The documentation on https://wiki.inf.ed.ac.uk/DICE/SchoolEdWeb covers the basic setup and background. It also contains links to the Disaster Recovery procedures, and links to the IS pages on EdWeb.

What wasn't achieved

I think everything that was requested has been achieved. There was a basic service in place for going live in August 2015, and by October 2016 (when Cosign was implemented) we were able to cater for restricted content, however see Problems below.

Problems

There is a shortcoming in EdWeb which means that "atoms" (content attached to pages), eg images, linked PDFs, etc are not protected, even if used on a restricted page. So if the URL direct to the atom is leaked/published somewhere, then it will be world accessible.

Some of the last content migrated from the old Plone pages to EdWeb were restricted pages, eg committee minutes pages. This worked fine if it was just the page that needed restricted access, but if there were PDFs type things that also need restricted, then EdWeb was no good. The work around is to use a restricted section of media.inf.ed.ac.uk and for the restricted documents to be placed in there and linked to from the restricted EdWeb page.

The EdWeb team are aware of this problem, and it has been something that was investigated at on of the IS code sprints.

Our use of Drupal features to tweak some of the settings to suit our use (the creation of an "inf editor" role) isn't a magic bullet. As EdWeb develops and new permissions are added, we need to update the role and feature to match. Again there is a request in to make a role like our "inf editor" role, a standard one, so we don't have to create our own. Basically it is like the built-in "editor" role, but without the ability to create new content, only maintain existing content.

Further work

It would be nice to have a DICE authorisation module, rather than use the UOE one, so we can restrict content based on our users' entitlements. Currently we are using the groupings provided by EdWeb, staff, student, etc.

This isn't just an EdWeb thing, but we need an HTTPS everywhere solution for web.inf.ed.ac.uk. Currently HTTPS implies Cosign.

Conclusion

As usual the bulk of the work for this project was completed months/years ago. The delay in finishing it off was creating proper disaster recovery instructions and documentation.

One thing this project did for me, was get me more engaged with the IS EdWeb team. I've been to a few of their code sprints on the back of my involvement with EdWeb.

Time

Quarter Hours spent
2015 Q1 16.1
2015 Q2 79.4
2015 Q3 45
2015 Q4 32
2016 Q1 31.5
2016 Q2 37.8
2016 Q3 13.6
2016 Q4 3.5
2017 Q1 0.2
2017 Q2 17.4
2017 Q3 1.7
2018 Q1 0.9
2018 Q2 8.3
2018 Q3 10.3
2018 Q4 3.7
Total 301.4

300 hours is nearly 43 days spread over 4 years. The bulk of it was at the begining while I got to grips with EdWeb and writing our local patches. Looking back I see that I classed some of the upgrades to EdWeb as project work, mainly because it involved me redoing and testing the patches. And then a bit of flurry latterly while I produced proper documentation and procedures for the service.

-- NeilBrown - 02 Oct 2018

Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
htmlhtml edweb-blog.html manage 47.0 K 02 Oct 2018 - 15:40 NeilBrown Archive of blog activity
txttxt edweb-blog.txt manage 47.0 K 02 Oct 2018 - 15:52 NeilBrown HTML as text
Topic revision: r1 - 02 Oct 2018 - 15:52:02 - NeilBrown
 
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